The Astros placed closer Roberto Osuna on the 10-day injured list prior to Sunday’s game against the Angels with right elbow soreness. Osuna injured the elbow throwing a pitch in the ninth inning of Saturday’s loss and summoned a trainer and manager Dusty Baker to the mound to take him out of the game. He flew back to Houston to get an MRI.
The loss of Osuna is the latest blow for an Astros club that has been devastated by pitching injuries so far this year. Osuna joins veteran relievers Austin Pruitt, Brad Peacock, Chris Devenski and Joe Biagini on the IL, and Joe Smith is on the restricted list. That leaves All-Star setup man Ryan Pressly as the only healthy bullpen arm who’s not a rookie.
“It’s very difficult,” Baker said Sunday. “I’m not going to lie to you.”
Baker said the Astros are on the hunt for pitching, but with so many injuries around the league and the season still in its early stages, it’s challenging.
“Everybody is looking for the same thing,” he said. “Everybody’s got the same problems almost -- pitchers going down. There’s only so many guys out there, so many quality guys out there. Who’s willing to give them up? And if they are willing to give them up, they want to rob you for them. They know how much in need you are. Plus, it’s too early. Everybody is still in the race. This probably won’t come up until September sometime, to tell you the truth.”
To replace Osuna, the Astros added right-hander Humberto Castellanos to the Major League roster from the taxi squad. He becomes their 10th rookie in the bullpen, seven of whom have made their Major League debuts this year. Castellanos and Carlos Sanabria, added from the taxi squad Saturday for Devenski, have yet to make their debuts. Another rookie, Cristian Javier, made his debut last week but is now in the rotation.
In the past week, the Astros have signed 43-year-old Fernando Rodney and acquired Hector Velázquez from the Orioles. Both were sent to work out at the team’s alternate training site in Corpus Christi, Texas.
“We’re waiting for reinforcements, but you’ve got to fight the fight you have right now,” Baker said.
Greinke reminds Baker of Maddux
In his first start of the season a week ago, veteran right-hander Zack Greinke was so tired after throwing 58 pitches he couldn’t get out of the fourth inning. Greinke was a much different pitcher in his second start Saturday, when he retired the first 16 batters he faced and had pinpoint control and better endurance. He threw 83 pitches on a no-decision.
“It was like he was painting a picture,” Baker said. “Very few have his control, but I wish everybody could see how to pitch. That’s how to pitch. Everybody wants to break the radar gun and can’t get anybody out and can’t throw strikes, but pitching is the key. He reminded me of Greg Maddux. It was beautiful to watch.”
Through two starts, Greinke’s average fastball has dipped to 86.9 mph, which is down from the 89.9 mph he averaged on fastballs last year. Greinke expects his velocity to increase as the season progresses, but for now, he is throwing at a comfortable level that won’t put too much stress on his arm and body.
“It’s kind of a tricky situation at the moment,” he said. “I’m just trying to do that and not get hurt and get outs and go deep into games. [On Saturday] the results, going almost six innings and still feeling strong, is good, but it would be nice if I was throwing three mph harder. I’d feel a little bit better about the long-term outlook. I’m not really trying to throw hard, either, at the same time.”
Greinke can live with lower velocity on his fastball if he’s throwing strikes with his off-speed pitches like he was Saturday.
“I kind of need all of it to come together, but I’m capable of doing that, so I still have a decent chance of doing good,” Greinke said.